LEWIS Gard felt he needed to leave Southend United to kick start his career.

The midfielder has not been offered a new deal to stay with the Shrimpers.

But Gard believes he needed to switch clubs to get the game time needed to improve.

“To be honest I think this is needed for my career and I’m excited about what’s next ,” said the 22-year-old.

“Yes I’ll miss the place but I’m not far away so I’ll still be around watching the odd game and will never be fully away from it all.”

Gard - who came through the youth ranks at Roots Hall - made just seven appearances last season.

And is already plotting his next move.

“I’m talking to a few clubs but the main thing for me is to go somewhere and play as much as I can to prolong my career," said Gard.

"That's what I definitely need to go and do now."

But Gard will always recall his spell at Blues with great fondness. 

"I'll always look back on my time here with fond memories because of the length of time I've been here," said Gard.

"I'll never forget the laughs and good times I've had at the club, along with all the people I've met along the way.

"There are moments I'll remember for years, right from when I was here as a youngster until now.

"But the main memories will always be my debut and all the laughs I had here along the way too."